Three potato bass released in a World Heritage Site

Three large potato bass, each weighing between 25kg and 30kg, were returned to the warm waters of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, after spending several years in the Reef Predator exhibit at uShaka Sea World.

Prior to their release on 29 September 2016, each was fitted with an acoustic tag and a yellow Oceanographic Research Institute (ORI) "spaghetti tag". Although they were firm favourites with Aquarium guests, it was time for the bass to return to the ocean as they were beginning to outgrow their exhibit and were showing more than a passing interest in some of their smaller exhibit mates.

All three potato bass (Epinephelus tukula) originally came from the iSimangaliso Wetland Park and it was therefore fitting to release them back into the same area.

The release provided an ideal opportunity to tag the fish since Floros is currently conducting an acoustic telemetry project on potato bass and green jobfish in the Isimangaliso Wetland Park.

The acoustic tags, unlike the more traditional "spaghetti tags", emit a unique “ping” for each individual fish (like a cell phone number or Identification number) that can be identified by underwater listening stations placed at strategic locations within the iSimangaliso Wetland Park.

The moment of release at iSimangaliso Wetland Park

“The listening stations can detect an acoustically tagged fish up to a radius of 300m and will provide valuable information on their natural ability to establish territories after being in captivity for a number of years,” said Floros.

The potato bass were tagged on 22 September and monitored in quarantine for five days before being given their medical clearance and driven to Sodwana Bay for release on the offshore reefs. All three fish were successfully released from ORI’s research vessel at specific locations on Two-Mile Reef.

“It was great to see them swim off into the blue and I can’t wait to download the data from the listening stations next year to see if these potato bass have stayed in the area or whether they have moved off to explore new reefs,” Floros added. 

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